In his own words
I was born in the Toxteth area of Liverpool and I began playing with a football when I was just three years old. I just used to kick it around with friends. To be honest, I can't remember how I really got into football, but my dad, Robbie, used to take me to a local field where he helped me to kick with both feet. His teaching still hasn't worked!
I was 10 or 11 when I played my first competitive game, where we played with nets and proper goalposts. I think most boys, when they are young, want to be a footballer when they grow up, and I was no different. Put it this way: I had no desire to be an astronaut! I really began to think about life in football when I was playing for Liverpool Schoolboys at the age of 11. We would play games up and down the country, and I would play with and against some very good players of the same age.
I think I just developed naturally into a footballer. Anyone who knew me when I was very young would tell you that I always had a ball with me. If it wasn't at my feet, I'd be carrying it wherever I went. No-one sat me down and suggested I thought about football as a career, and I didn't say it to anyone, either.
Everyone knows that I used to be an Everton supporter, and a lot was made of this soon after I broke into Liverpool's first team and began to score goals. One of the questions I am often asked, an obvious question, I suppose, is how come I ended up at Liverpool. When I was playing for Liverpool Schoolboys, one of the Liverpool FC scouts, Jim Aspinall, came to watch me. There were a lot of scouts there from other clubs as well - Everton's representative was a bloke called Syd Benson - but Jim was probably the first who came up to me. He handed me his card and told me he would like me to train a few nights a week at Liverpool. Things just developed from there.
Everton then tried to sign me, but by then I had been at Liverpool for a while and I had grown up with all the lads. I felt really comfortable there. When it came to signing schoolboy forms, Everton came back on the scene again and I could have signed for them. I played a few games for Everton. When I was 14, I was playing for Everton's Under-17 team and doing quite well. Don't get me wrong: Everton treated me brilliantly, but I felt more at home at Liverpool because I had spent more time there. Sure, I was an Evertonian, but I wasn't stupid: deep down, although I would never admit it, I always knew that Liverpool were the better side. I would always tell people that I thought Everton were the best team in the world, but what I said wasn't always what I felt.
Kenny Dalglish was manager when I signed for Liverpool. When I was training there as a schoolboy, Kenny would sometimes drop me off at home. I couldn't wait to get into school the next morning to tell everyone what had happened! Steve Heighway, who is still in charge of Liverpool's youth set-up, was very good to me and helped me a lot at that time. He sat me down and talked to me about things, and gave me lots of advice which I have used.
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